The art of transformation

How did a relatively small hotel in Mykonos town become a favorite with the international jet set? Architect Domna Ioannidis and the Rockwell Group, the team that transformed the Belvedere Hotel into an integral part of the local fabric, have all the answers.

A Cultural Melting Pot

The Belvedere Hotel breaks every rule. Approaching luxury from its own perspective, it re- invents the Mykonian spirit, bending Cycladic rules to its will. A discreet touch of island folk elevates the light-filled interiors into an intimate, cosmopolitan-meets-cosy setting that has inspired a fiercely loyal following. Established in 1996, the Belvedere has gone through various transformations, but its current understated sense of splendour comes courtesy of architect Domna Ioannidis and the NY-based Rockwell Group, that jointly undertook the most recent renovation of the property a few years ago.

“The use of a wide variety of locally- sourced and imported materials was critical to the end result,” says Domna Ioannidis. The fabrics were imported from the US, the Basaltina stone originates in Italy and the emblematic wooden screen was originally constructed in Mexico and flown in to Mykonos. Additional timber features were hand carved by Marin Ratasiewicz – a Polish artist who’s become an honorary native – while a lot of the furniture was special ordered from Indonesia to add an earthbound touch to the breeze interiors. The humble plaster, a dominant feature throughout the Belvedere, is a reflection of Greek architecture, a testament to the architectural team’s attention to detail.

It Takes a Village

“The original idea was for the hotel to simulate a small village,” explains Domna Ioannidis. “We wanted the architecture of the Belvedere to mimic the architecture of Mykonos.” The buzzing pool area – the centrepiece of the entire hotel – takes the role of the “village square”, Â where guests interact and get to know each other better. The rooms are strategically built around the pool, so even when sitting on your balcony, you still feel like you ‘re part of a whole. The Belvedere’s genius lies in a simple yet critical fact: the ability to create the illusion that guests are almost within earshot of each other, while in fact they ‘re far enough apart to maintain their privacy. The eight buildings surrounding the pool are constructed on the perimeter of the estate, forming a filter between Mykonos town and the guests – a little “veil of mystery” if you like, that draws them even closer together.

Pay close attention and you will easily discern that one of the buildings is different from the rest. The old mansion, which pre-dates the hotel and remains untouched, now houses the Matsuhisa restaurant, one of the most atmospheric parts of the hotel and Domna Ioannidis’ favourite.

Architecture out of the Box

The reception area is your initiation to the Belvedere mystique. The view from the lobby stretches far and wide, embracing the old port of Mykonos directly in front of the hotel. The lobby previously housed a lounging area, where guests could relax for the evening, and a wooden sculpture for a sophisticated touch of privacy. Today, the space has been repurposed to accommodate the Venyx boutique, featuring jewellery by globetrotting designer Eugenie Niarchos. “The hotel is like a living organism: its functions change over time and progress accordingly,” explains Ioannidis. The Rockwell Group’s experience in hotel interiors was key, complemented by the architect’s personal involvement with the Belvedere. “Having lived here myself, I was acutely aware of how guests approached the hotel and what they expected of it, which proved extremely valuable for the renovation.”

Designer Eugenie Niarchos’ Venyx boutique

“The ability to transform the setting at different times of day, depending on the needs of the hotel, is a very significant feature of the interior,” explains Domna Ioannidis. In the morning, the pool serves as a swimming and lounging area, while in the evening it’s a popular restaurant. Hence, the sunbends are converted into sofas!

Lighting is the Belvedere’s secret weapon. The installation was designed by Clark Johnson, featuring his signature recessed wall light fixtures and a smattering of metal balls with petals that add a sense of drama.

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